The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Friday, June 13, 2008

When Jesus Met a Gay Man

I put this on my myspace page a few years ago and probably would not have thought to post it here but then Darryl came along. Darryl has been posting comments on a previous post ( Vote Today... ) about my views on religion and sexuality and he wrote, "There is nothing in the Bible that supports the gay lifestyle. Not a single verse..."

Now Darryl, unlike some of the people placing comments in the past, is cordial, seems intelligent, and is able to carry on a conversation in writing without resorting to screaming and name calling. However, he is wrong. And what he wrote sounded like a challenge.

I could have paraphrased this, but the authors do such a good job and I didn't want to mess up their logical progression of their case.

When Jesus met a Gay Man

An excerpt from The Children Are Free by Jeff Miner and John Tyler Connoley. Emphasis is mine.

From our days in Sunday School, many of us are familiar with the Gospel story where Jesus healed the servant of a Roman centurion. The story is recorded in Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10. In Matthew, we are told that the centurion came to Jesus to plead for the healing of his servant. Jesus said he was willing to come to the centurion's house, but the centurion said there was no need for Jesus to do so. He believed that if Jesus simply spoke the word, his servant would be healed. Marveling at the man's faith, Jesus pronounced the servant healed. Luke tells a similar story.

Just another miracle story, right? Not on your life!

In the original language, the importance of this story for gay, lesbian and bisexual Christians is much clearer. The Greek word used in Matthews account to refer to the servant of the centurion is pais. In the language of the time, pais had three possible meanings depending upon the context in which it was used. It could mean son or boy; it could mean servant, or it could mean a particular type of servant one who was his masters male lover. (footnote18) Often these lovers were younger than their masters, even teenagers.

To our modern minds, the idea of buying a teen lover seems repugnant. But we have to place this in the context of ancient cultural norms. In ancient times, commercial transactions were the predominant means of forming relationships. Under the law, the wife was viewed as the property of the husband, with a status just above that of a slave. Moreover, in Jesus' day, a boy or girl was considered of marriageable age upon reaching his or her early teens. It was not uncommon for boys and girls to marry at age 14 or 15. (footnote19) Nor was it uncommon for an older man to marry a young girl. Fortunately civilization has advanced, but these were the norms in the culture of Jesus day.

In that culture, if you were a gay man who wanted a male spouse, you achieved this, like your heterosexual counterparts, through a commercial transaction purchasing someone to serve that purpose. A servant purchased to serve this purpose was often called a pais.

The word boy in English offers a rough comparison. Like pais, the word boy can be used to refer to a male child. But in the slave South in the nineteenth century, boy was also often used to refer to male slaves. The term boy can also be used as a term of endearment. For example, Jeff's father often refers to his mother as his girl. He doesn't mean that she is a child, but rather that she is his special one. The term boy can be used in the same way, as in my boy or my beau. In ancient Greek, pais had a similar range of meanings.

Thus, when this term was used, the listener had to consider the context of the statement to determine which meaning was intended. Some modern Christians may be tempted to simply declare by fiat that the Gospels could not possibly have used the term pais in the sense of male lover, end of discussion. But that would be yielding to prejudice. We must let the word of God speak for itself, even if it leads us to an uncomfortable destination.

Is it possible the pais referred to in Matthew 8 and Luke 7 was the roman centurion's male lover? Lets look at the biblical evidence.

The Bible provides three key pieces of textual and circumstantial evidence. First, in the Luke passage, several additional Greek words are used to describe the one who is sick. Luke says this pais was the centurion's entimos duolos. The word duolos is a generic term for slave, and was never used in ancient Greek to describe a son/boy. Thus, Luke's account rules out the possibility the sick person was the centurion's son; his use of duolos makes clear this was a slave. However, Luke also takes care for indicate this was no ordinary slave. The word entimos means honored. This was an honored slave (entimos duolos) who was his master's pais. Taken together, the three Greek words preclude the possibility the sick person was either the centurion's son or an ordinary slave, leaving only one viable option: he was his master's male lover. (footnote20)

A second piece of evidence is found in verse 9 of Mathew's account. In the course of expressing his faith in Jesus' power to heal by simply speaking, the centurion says, "When I tell my slave to do something, he does it." By extension, the centurion concludes that Jesus is also able to issue a remote verbal command that must be carried out. When speaking of his slaves, the centurion uses the word duolos. But when speaking of the one he is asking Jesus to heal, he uses only pais. In other words, when he is quoted in Matthew, the centurion uses pais only when referring to the sick person. He uses a different word, doulos, when speaking of his other slaves, as if to offer a distinction. (In Luke, it is others, not the centurion, who call the sick one an entimos duolos.) Again, the clear implication is that the sick man was no ordinary slave. And when pais was used to describe a servant who was not an ordinary slave, it meant only one thing: a slave who was the master's male lover.

The third piece of evidence is circumstantial. In the Gospels, we have many examples of people seeking healing for themselves or for family members. But this story is the only example of someone seeking healing for a slave. The actions described are made even more remarkable by the fact that this was a proud Roman centurion (the conqueror/oppressor) who was humbling himself and pleading with a Jewish rabbi (the conquered/oppressed) to heal his slave. The extraordinary lengths to which this man went to seek healing for his slave is much more understandable, from a psychological perspective, if the slave was his beloved companion.

Thus, all the textual and circumstantial evidence in the Gospels points in one direction. For objective observers, the conclusion is inescapable: in this story Jesus healed a man's male lover. When understood this way, the story takes on a whole new dimension.

Imagine how it may have happened. While stationed in Palestine, the centurion's pais becomes ill experiencing some type of life threatening paralysis. The centurion will stop at nothing to save him. Perhaps a friend tells him of rumors of Jesus' healing powers. Perhaps this friend also tells him Jesus is unusually open to foreigners, teaching his followers that they should love their enemies, even Roman soldiers. So the centurion decides to take a chance. Jesus was his only hope.

As he made his way to Jesus, he probably worried about the possibility that Jesus, like other Jewish rabbis, would take a dim view of his homosexual relationship. Perhaps he even considered lying. He could simply use the word duolos. That would have been accurate, as far as it went. But the centurion probably figured if Jesus was powerful enough to heal his lover, he was also powerful enough to see through any half-truths.

So the centurion approaches Jesus and bows before him. "Rabbi", my the word gets caught in his throat. This is it the moment of truth. Either Jesus will turn away in disgust, or something wonderful will happen. So, the centurion clears his throat and speaks again. "Rabbi, my pais, yes, my pais, lies at home sick unto death." Then he pauses and waits for a second that must have seemed like an eternity. The crowd of good, God fearing people surrounding Jesus probably became tense. This was like a gay man asking a televangelist to heal his lover. What would Jesus do?

Without hesitation, Jesus says, "Then I will come and heal him."

Its that simple! Jesus didn't say, "Are you kidding? I'm not going to heal your pais so you can go on living in sin!" Nor did he say, "Well, it shouldn't surprise you that your pais is sick; this is God's judgment on your relationship".

Instead, Jesus' words are simple, clear and liberating for all who have worried about what God thinks of gay relationships. "I will come and heal him."

At this point, the centurion says there is no need for Jesus to travel to his home. He has faith that Jesus' word is sufficient. Jesus then turns to the good people standing around him those who were already dumbfounded that he was willing to heal this man's male lover. To them, Jesus says in verse 10 of Matthews account, "I have not found faith this great anywhere in Israel." In other words, Jesus holds up this gay centurion as an example of the type of faith others should aspire to.

Jesus didn't just tolerate this gay centurion. He said he was an example of faith someone we all should strive to be like.

Then, just so the good, God-fearing people wouldn't miss the point, Jesus speaks again in verse 11: "I tell you, many will come from the east and the west (i.e., beyond the borders of Israel) to find a seat in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs (i.e., those considered likely to inherit heaven) will be thrown into outer darkness." By this statement Jesus affirmed that many others like this gay centurion, those who come from beyond the assumed boundaries of God's grace are going to be admitted to the kingdom of heaven. And he also warned that many who think themselves the most likely to be admitted will be left out.

With this story, we rest our case. Who could ask for more? In this story, Jesus restores a gay relationship by a miracle of healing and then holds up a gay man as an example of faith for all to follow. What more do our fundamentalist friends want? Who is Lord? Jesus or cultural prejudice?


18. K. J. Dover, Greek Homosexuality (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1978), page 16; Bernard Sergent, Homosexuality in Greek Myth (Beacon Press, Boston, 1986), page 10.

19. Mercer Dictionary of the Bible (Mercer University Press, Macon, 1994), page 554.

20. For an excellent and thorough discussion of the terms pais and entimos duolos in these two gospel accounts, see Donald Mader's article The Entimos Pais of Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10, (Source: Homosexuality and Religion and Philosophy, Harland Publishing, Inc, New York, 1998).

If you have made it this far, you may want to read more. The book is The Children are Free, by Jeff Miner and John Tyler Connoley, published by Jesus Metropolitan Community Church, Indianapolis, Indiana. Jesus MCC. Or just ask. I will loan you the book.


Anonymous said...

Good job Joe, taking this from the website of Jesus Metropolitan Community Church in Indiana, a church known for their acceptance of homosexuality.

God loves the sinner, but hates the sin. Jesus was hated by the religious leaders, the very ones that put him to death, b/c of his constant association with tax collectors, prostitutes, and murderers.

So...if we assume that because Jesus healed this man, he approved of his homosexual relationship (which we do not know that to even be the case), then we must also assume that when Jesus forgave the thief on the cross he approved of his crimes, and when he protected the prostitute from stoning then he approved of her prostitution.

No, this entire scenario that you have just described is filled with assumptions.

But how about the 'black and white' verses that are in the Bible:

"Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable" (Leviticus 18:22)

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion" (Romans 1:26-27).

1 Corinthians 6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind.

Jesus (God) will forgive anyone. He will heal them. But he also expect them to "go and sin no more."

Finally, and this is important, find a credible medical doctor who will tell you that it is healthy for an erect penis to be inserted into the anus. You won't find one. It is medically and anatomically abnormal. Scientifically, sex is actually a means to an end. Offspring. This can not be fulfilled between two men or two women.

According to common sense, science, logic, psychology and religion, homosexuality is irrational, illogical, abnormal and an immoral behavior.

Joe said...

It almost sounds as if you are accusing me of taking someone elses words without giving them credit, but I gave full credit and a link to the original work.

Now, regarding the woman he protected from stoning, I believe she was an adulteress, not a prostitute. And after forgiving her, Jesus asked her to sin no more. Adultery of course is one of the 10 commandments, so no doubt Jesus recognized that as a sin.

The thief on the cross...well, it was obvious he would sin no more since he was near death, so Jesus just forgave him without the admonition.

But the centurion...Jesus knew he would go on about his merry (gay) way, yet said nothing.

As for the other verses you name, I will address them one by one for anyone who wants to hear, but it would be easier just to go to the Jesus MCC church link in the post, and click on the link about homosexuality and the Bible, and find information.

And finally, I hate getting graphic, but to use your words, inserting the erect penis into a vagina doesn't seem to be too healthy either, as birmingham is experiencing a syphylis epidemic (that the mayor wants to ignore). Number one in the country, I believe.

And on you last sentence I will just have to disagree about the science, psychology, religion and immoral part...well, really all of it.

Anonymous said...

As Christians is up to us to try our best to live up to the standards that are placed before us in the scriptures. Joe reads the Bible one way, Darryl reads it another. I know Joe personally and know that he has faith and that he knows his bible. It sounds like Darryl does too. We simply have two different interpretations of the scripture.

Now I know that each party is thinking "just how in the world can they not possibly understand my viewpoint on homosexuality? It is to me as clear as day." I just don't think it matters. I think that the teaching of Jesus are greater than this or any one issue. To me it doesn't matter if I thing either view is wrong. Every person is a part of God's creation and we are to treat them as we would want to be treated whether we feel that something they are doing is sinful or not.

And the use of slurs isn't going to help convince a person of the legitimacy of one's position. They only serve to make that person look foolish.

Anonymous said...

I know I am not going to change some people's opinions, I just express my own.

No one really knows all there is to know about God. But we should all agree that God is love. I take it one step further, though. God is love. Love comes from God. The love between two men is a gift from God just as the love between a man and a woman is. Some people always bring sex into it, but one's being and the love that one gives is about so much more than that.

And I do think it is unwise to accept scripture without looking at the culture, the world which was present when it was written, and without examining what the words it was written in really meant. Just because King James' writers (who took instruction from him as to what to say) wrote things a certain way, does not make them so. Even if the original writers of the accepted scriptures were "inspired" by God, no one has convinced me that the English translators were, either in King James' day or present.

Anonymous said...

The Bible clearly says that "not everyone who says unto me Lord, Lord shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven." It does matter how one interprets scripture. There is absolute truth. You cannot say you believe in God and yet live life the way you feel is right.
I have been a pastor/evangelist for many years. I have both a college degree and a seminary degree in theology.
There is absolutely no basis for the opinion here. It is true that you must go to the original language in order to correctly interpret scripture, but what you have said here is boarderline blasphemy.
Homosexuality is clearly shown to be a sin and one cannot call himself or herself a Christian, yet not attempt to follow the teaching of Christ.
True, we all fail at times. But there is a difference in trying to do what is right and failing, and not attempting to follow Christ's teachings yet calling yourself a follower. It just does not work that way.

Anonymous said...

Rev. Graham,
Your credentials are impressive but I know others with just as many degrees and just as much theological training that would agree with me. Pastors at Covenant Community Church here in town or Bethel MCC Church or the church I linked to on the blog.

I agree, there is absolute truth. But to pretend that you know it or I know it is almost laughable.

Language, translation, history, culture,study of Jesus...those things are the basis of the opinion I express. And like I told Darryl the other day...from believers not so long ago, slavery was upheld based on biblical teaching. Native Americans were slaughtered based on biblical teaching. Women were treated as property and also denied the right to vote based on biblical teaching. And Christian leaders of the day were just as fervent as you about what they believed.

Time after time, Christians have realized that they were wrong in their treatment of others based on race or culture or gender. Gee, could it not be so about sexuality as well?

Anonymous said...

"Finally, and this is important, find a credible medical doctor who will tell you that it is healthy for an erect penis to be inserted into the anus."

Whew! I can relax! Thankfully, that isn't an issue that troubles half the homosexual population.

a FEMALE reader

Anonymous said...

No it couldn't because we have no choice about race, we have no choice about gender, and we have no choice about culture.
At some point you must understand this.

Anonymous said...

Time and time again you try to imply that sexuality is a choice, yet time and time again you refuse to tell me when you made the choice. when did you weigh the options between being gay or straight? was it a difficult choice?

You are right about race and gender. The choice is how one responds to those identities. Just as the choice now is to respond to sexual diverisity with either acceptance, as Jesus did, or intolerance.

And by the way, we do have a choice about culture. The racist culture that once dominated the south was a societal choice, and no one was forced to live here and participate. By choice, some lived here and fought for the status quo, others lived here and fought for change. But some Christian leaders of the day promtoted that culture of hate and intolerance. Just as they promote the hatred and intolerance shown toward the GLBT community.

Now, tell us about your choice when you were deciding about your own sexuality..

FGM said...

Hey Joe,
I have a friend from Israel who tells me there isn't any particular law about homosexuality for Jews, this from a people who have rules about how close the cheese can be to their meat. To me that means that it wasn't a big deal. Maybe once everyone was bisexual and only in the last few hundred years did we start thinking you have to be one way or another.


Anonymous said...

The "Reverend" James Graham here -- quite tellingly -- extols the virtue of his credentials to such an extent of confidence that he feels prepared to condemn an entire group of people.

How is it, then, that in all his revered academia, could he not learn that the word "borderline" has no A in it?

"...Careful the things you say.
Children will listen..."

Joe - keep it up buddy. I am one gay Christian that is proud to stand with you.

Joe said...

Thanks Jeff. Keep reading...and keep commenting. We are making progress.

Anonymous said...

I am not surprised that the MCC promote homosexual life styles in direct contradiction to scripture , They even have a woman in a position over the males Rev. Dr. Kathlyn James again in direct contradiction to scripture.

Joe said...

Or...centuries of mis-translation and decades of mis-interpretation of biblical writings lead people like anonymous to believe in discrimination.

Anonymous said...

Great post . . . I'm going to have "to steal" it at some point. ;-)

Joe said...


Go ahead and use it wherever you can.

Anonymous said...

It seems this issue has been dropped a couple of months ago. However, consider this view. Could it be possible that you, Joe, after much research into the original languages and the time in which the event happened, just wanted Jesus to condone and accept the gay lifestyle? You yourself said that the word pais had three possible meanings: son or boy, servant, or male lover. Then you go on to state that Luke says this pais was the centurion's entimos duolos. Duolos means slave and entimos means honored. "Luke says this pais was the centurion's entimos duolos." Could it possibly, simply mean that this servant (one of the meanings of pais) was the centurion's honored slave? Why does it have to have a sexual meaning? Perhaps the centurion had no children and he treated this particular servant like his son and therefore cared deeply for him only in that capacity? There are numerous scenarios as to why the centurion sought Jesus' help. And, just maybe, Jesus made the centurion an example to the crowd because it was highly unusual for a Roman, let alone a Roman centurion, to have any faith or belief in Jesus and God. If we look hard enough, we can all find something which supports our opinion and lifestyle. Jesus' miracles and teachings will always be controversial among all humankind, but His direct statements are ironclad. The consequences of sin is death. Just research homosexuality and gay throughout the Bible and tell me what He says about it.

Joe said...

If you go back and read the post, the author does a good job of explaining why the servant should be thought of as a male lover.

"Just research homosexuality and gay throughout the Bible and tell me what He says about it."

I will refer you to the book that the post came from for the rest of my response. I've done a lot of that on this blog, and won't re-hash it here. But I will say this. Jesus didn't utter a word (directly) about it.

Anonymous said...

Had the centurian's slave been his gay lover and Christ known and approved of such. You can bet that He would have said so much. Ancient Jews didn't see homosexuality as acceptable. In fact, the OT had told them it was a sin. Had anyone thought the man was gay they would have asked Jesus about it, like they did when He ate with tax collectors and prostitutes. At such a time, Jesus could have said, "And I come to tell you, blessed are the homos, for they just want to love each other." But He didn't. Jesus never missed a chance to correct wrong interpretations.

The pais was a household servant whom the centurian loved as a family member.

Anonymous said...

It's fascinating to me how un-scientific so much of the anti-gay thinking is. It's simply not true to say that the penis is a sex organ intended by God to fulfill only ONE purpose: procreative sex. The fact of the matter is that I use my penis to piss everyday. See how that works? Multiple uses for the same organ! The mouth, for instance, can be used for eating or drinking (as part of the digestive system), but it can also be using for breathing (as part of the respiratory system) or even for kissing and sexing. So when people say that anal sex isn't natural, I say hogwash! Gay men may have DISCOVERED the anal orgasm, but we certainly didn't INVENT it. It was there already--by nature's design--waiting for someone to find it.

Anonymous said...

How wonderful to read words of light rather than the usual words of heat.

Now then, the Georgia law upheld in the early 1980's against a homosexual couple engaging in oral sex in their own home, was then swiftly amended when it became apparent that it's wording applied to straight couples as well as gay ones.

I'm willing to affirm that the sole purpose of the penis is for procreation if you're willing to declare that no Christian may ever partake in oral sex and no sterile man or barren woman may ever have sex at all, and that as soon as a woman reaches menopause her husband must take up a hobby since he no longer has justification for intercourse. In addition, you will also have to embrace papal teachings regarding masturbation and contraception. Are you ready?

Finally, as for homosexuality being not natural may I remind everyone that biologists and naturalists have in the last few decades reported on homosexuality between primates, fish, and foul proving the prescience of Noel Coward when he sang that "Birds do it, bees do it…," etc. In fact, when you consider that the male and female sexual organs are the same primitive forms modified by hormones, penis and clitoris are just tomato, potato. And if you whether you believe that God designs everything or that everything just is pretty marvelous, you've got to wonder why in both men and women a powerfully erotic cluster of nerves able to produce ejaculation is most easily accessed through the wall of the rectum next to the prostate.

Tasha said...

Are u for real?? This is how the centurion was gay. Jesus was and is against fornication. Even if this centurion was gay why wld he say nothing about the sin of fornication/adultery that he was committing with his male lover? If being gay is a ok, and if a very large majority of us humans become gay, how exactly will we fulfill God's command of being fruitful and multiplying biologically? Also because other species have homosexual sex so therefore us humans created as a higher form, in God's image should act like the beasts of the land, birds do the air and fishes of the sea? Are we human beings or animals? Stop twisting the word of God. All that can be drawn from the centurion's story is that the servant was honored, kind of like Joseph in Potiphars house. How in the world ur debased mind devises homosexuality by a demonic logic is just sad. Also homosexuality was a grave sin to the Jews, OT style. Surely if this servant was a male lover it wld have been brought up, like a man putting aside his wife, or stoning for adultery, or observing the sabbath, or dining and wining with tax collectors and what not. Ur conclusion is soo false like cuz the term honored is used it now means lover?? As much as Christ didn't speak on homosexuality directly, there is more in the bible to infer that it is wrong than there is for its defense! There are lots of verses where Christ blesses the union of marriage between a man and a woman, where He teaches and guides on it but yet in all of that He didn't find the time to mention blessings for the union between a man and a man/woman and woman?? We are all God's creation but not everyone is His child. Stop deceiving ur self and leading the world astray. Homosexuality is a pervasive wicked and detestable thing to the Lord. It's funny how the bible essentially says the more we sin the more we sin. He will give them over to their lustful and wicked desires. We now think oh the more I do it or the more I feel it surely it has to be right or ok when it's the direct opposite. Having said that the liar will meet the adulterer the thief, the cheat, the murderer and the homosexual in the same hell so we shld all be mindful.